- Visit the colonial town of Antigua
- Explore the ancient Maya ruins at Tikal
- Kayak around Lake Atitlán
- Hike up an active volcano
|Day 1||Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua||Antigua|
|Day 2||Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class||Antigua|
|Day 3||Pacaya Volcano Hike & Spa Treatment||Antigua|
|Day 4||Bike & Coffee Combo Tour||Antigua|
|Day 5||Travel to Lake Atitlan & Village Tour||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 6||Kayaking & Hiking Around Lake Atitlán||Lake Atitlán|
|Day 7||Lake Atitlán to Antigua & Iximché Ruins||Antigua|
|Day 8||Antigua to Tikal National Park||Tikal National Park|
|Day 9||Explore Tikal National Park||Tikal National Park|
|Day 10||Depart Guatemala|
Day 1: Arrive in Guatemala, Transfer to Antigua
Welcome to Guatemala! A personal driver will be waiting for you at the airport in Guatemala City to transfer you about an hour west to the colonial city of Antigua. After settling into your hotel, you'll have free time to explore on your own.
Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for the Spanish colonial Old Town around its main plaza, Central Park. It's also surrounded by three volcanoes, and the contrast between these imposing mountains and the city's colorful architecture is part of the reason Antigua has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.
Spend the remainder of the day walking Antigua's cobbled streets and treating yourself to local cuisine at cafés, or head to the food markets for quick eats like tostadas and empanadas (called dobladas in Guatemala). Tomorrow you'll explore the city on a more in-depth guided tour, so for now simply hit a few of the main attractions. These include the Santa Catalina Arch and the ruins of the 16th-century Antigua Guatemala Cathedral and 18th-century Convento Santa Clara.
Day 2: Antigua Walking Tour & Cooking Class
In the morning, meet your local guide (who's also an expert historian) to explore Antigua. Guatemala's former capital boasts an impressive array of Baroque buildings and colonial homes painted in bright pastels. Many old religious and civic structures have been beautifully renovated after major earthquakes, while others retain a tumbledown charm.
On this 3-hour tour, you'll visit 18th-century landmarks like the Palacio del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace), which houses the town offices and a museum of ancient books; the Palace of the Captain's General, home to the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism; the Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent that is now a hotel and museum; and La Merced Church, whose canary yellow Baroque facade is a hallmark of the city.
You'll also learn about Maya archaeology and their use of jade. To the ancient Mayans, this mineral was more valuable than gold and held great religious and spiritual significance. After the tour, take some time to enjoy lunch and relax. But don't eat too much—up next is a culinary experience every foodie will love.
In the afternoon, you'll discover Guatemala through its smells and flavors as you take part in a cooking class. This cuisine is unique in that it's a potent mix of colonial Spanish and indigenous Maya flavors. Native Guatemalan chefs from the surrounding region of Sacatepequez will lead the class, teaching you how to cook a main dish, make authentic tortillas, and prepare a traditional dessert. Of course, at the end of the class you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy the meal you've prepared.
Day 3: Pacaya Volcano Hike & Spa Treatment
Get an early start for a guided climb up the 8,370-foot (2,552-m) Volcán Pacaya. These slopes are home to some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya cuts an imposing figure with the continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and the massive dried lava field at the base of its caldera.
This moderate hike takes about 2 hours to reach the top, but horses are an option for those who'd prefer a more relaxed ascent. Upon arrival at the summit, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch amid panoramic views and even roast marshmallows over the volcano's natural heat. The hike down traverses more dried lava fields before descending through tropical forest and farmland. After you reach the trailhead, visit a nearby thermal spa whose natural springs are heated by the very volcano you just climbed.
Your treatment includes a Thermal Circuit in which you'll immerse your body for short periods of time in natural pools ranging from 75° Fahrenheit (24°C) to 106°F (41°C). Then move on to a combined steam/hydrotherapy bath followed by a cold-water shower and top it off with a relaxing 25-minute massage. You'll have plenty of time afterward to take a dip in the spa's natural swimming pools and enjoy a snack and fruit smoothie before you return to Antigua in the evening.
Day 4: Bike & Coffee Combo Tour
Meet your guide again in the morning to get fitted out for today's bicycle tour around Antigua. You'll ride just south of the city to the De La Gente coffee cooperative, a unique coffee-growing operation far different from large-scale production farms. The community sits on the flank of Volcan de Agua, and local farmers work together as a co-op to grow, pick, and process their own coffee for export to markets in Europe and North America.
You'll follow one of the co-op farmers on a private tour of the fields and small-batch roasting operation before sitting down to enjoy lunch together. Afterward, you'll return to Antigua and will have the remainder of the day free.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Travel to Lake Atitlán & Village Tour
Take a private transfer to Lake Atitlán, approximately 2.5 hours west of Anitgua. A section of this drive is on the Pan-American Highway, part of a network of roads stretching from one end of the Americas to the other, from Alaska to Argentina. As you get closer to Atitlán and round the mountain bends, keep an eye out for stunning views above the lake.
Eventually you'll arrive in Panajachel, Atitlán's main town, located on the north shore. This will be your base for a tour of various lakeside villages accompanied by a local guide. There are many small indigenous villages around Atitlán, and you'll stop at a few to get a closer look into the local arts, traditions, and stories of the Maya people. Besides the picturesque scenery, highlights include visiting a local women's weaving co-op and a shrine to the infamous Maya saint of Maximon, known for his depraved behavior.
You can choose to stop for lunch in one of the villages or wait until you get back to your hotel later in the afternoon. The rest of the day you'll have free to relax, enjoy a swim, or simply chill out on the lakeshore with a good book and cup of coffee.
Day 6: Kayaking & Hiking Around Lake Atitlán
Wake up to views of the lake and its towering volcanoes before meeting your guide for today's expedition. You'll start out in a kayak, paddling westward along the north shore of Lake Atitlan for roughly 1.5-2 hours. Pass by villages perched on lakeside cliffs, hop in the lake for a swim, or even do some cliff-jumping. Your destination is a spot between the villages of Tzununá and San Marcos La Laguna, where you'll leave your kayak behind and lace up your hiking boots.
Follow the lake trail that runs between the villages, taking in views of the San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán volcanoes. You'll hike along the shoreline and through small villages for about 1.5 hours, and the route will eventually return you to your lodge. You'll have the remainder of the afternoon free.
Day 7: Lake Atitlan to Antigua & Iximché Ruins
Take a boat and then a private car from Lake Atitlan to the archaeological site at Iximché. Back in the 15th century, this was a great capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom. Its ruins sit in the western highlands of Guatemala and include pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ballcourts. Take a guided tour through the site, which was declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. Afterward you'll get back on the road and return to Antigua.
Day 8: Antigua to Tikal National Park
Take the morning to explore Antigua one last time. Maybe visit some Baroque buildings and colonial churches you might have missed the first time around. Also here are great restaurants, bars, cafes, and various shopping options. Before leaving you'll definitely want to visit the colorful Mercado. This bustling marketplace is filled with Maya artwork, garments, and textiles that make great souvenirs.
In the evening, you'll transfer to the airport in Guatemala City and fly north to the lakeside town of Flores. This will be your base for exploring Tikal National Park.
Day 9: Explore Tikal National Park
Your day is devoted to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal National Park. Tikal was once the capital of one of the ancient Mayas' most powerful kingdoms, and the ruins around this archeological site date to around the 1st century ACE. They include sprawling citadels and towering pyramids, including the most impressive of all, Temple IV. At 230 feet (70 m), it is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in Central America. Hike up the staircase at the side of the temple for incredible views.
Throughout the tour, you'll follow your expert guide through the temples and pyramids, stopping at all the major points of interest. This includes Temples I, II, II, IV, and V, the Lost World, Complex Q, the Great Plaza, the Window Palace, and more. After a break for lunch, you'll have more time to explore the site on your own. Keep an eye out for exotic wildlife like toucans and howler monkeys.
Day 10: Depart Flores
It's time to say goodbye to Guatemala. In the morning, you'll take an early flight out of Flores to Guatemala City, where you'll pick up your connecting flight home. Safe travels!
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